Fairly straightforward question the answer to which I presume depends upon ride distance, terrain, bike type, and bag weight, but I'm hoping there's a rule of thumb that generally applies to all scenarios.

This question dawned on me as I was mounting a Citi Bike last night:

Should I keep my messenger bag (weighing about 15 lbs.) strapped to my back, or should I secure it in the "protective rack" attached to the handlebars?

My thinking at the time: The bag would fit perfectly, but it would weigh down the front of the bike and make it more difficult to steer.

I opted to keep the bag strapped to my back, but this decision was based on 100% conjecture. I have little to no experience riding with belongings in a handlebar basket. On the other hand, I very often ride with a heavy messenger bag. It's habit at this point, and maybe a bad one.

The ride proved uneventful, though I can report that it isn't exactly easy riding the incline of the Williamsburg Bridge while wearing a full messenger bag on a 45 lbs Citi Bike. Would the ride have been any easier if I had put my bag in the handlebar basket?

  • 1
    No rule of thumb as far as I know. I personally prefer to carry luggage on the bike rather than on me, provided the bike permits it. But that's totally subjective.
    – PeteH
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:45
  • @PeterH Couldn't agree more :)
    – ha9u63a7
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:51
  • 1
    As others have stated this is subjective but I prefer to carry Items on the bike. My reasoning is that in the event of an accident it is less likely to cause me injury if it isn't strapped to my body
    – mikes
    Jun 25, 2013 at 20:59
  • @mikes hmm...if you have a £1000 laptop in your bag? what happens after accident :p?
    – ha9u63a7
    Jun 25, 2013 at 21:12
  • 1
    It is not sticking out of your ribs:)
    – mikes
    Jun 25, 2013 at 21:28

3 Answers 3


Bikeshare bikes are beasts, and their geometry (long wheelbases, particularly) is such that I wouldn't think 15 pounds in front appreciably changes the steering. My concern -- the picture isn't clear on this point -- is whether the bag can be secured in place so that it doesn't slide out. My messenger bag sometimes gets loaded unevenly (books!), which could increase the chances it would fall out.

Heat is another consideration, especially given that hill. Messenger bags on your back hold in the heat! Hill might not be any harder that way, but it'll likely FEEL sweatier and more difficult.


I would suggest that you strap it to your back ONLY if it is not distracting you when cycling. What I mean by distracting is the back sliding left or right and making you feel that it is moving around your body. This could be an annoying factor for just anybody.

If you have this issue, try to fasten it around the protective rail at the front. Citi bikes are reasonably sturdy, so the weight distribution would not be affected I hope. We have similar bikes in London and I am sure I have seen people doing both; bags strapped around the body and fastened securely around the front area (where the protective rail is).

Why not just try it? I would certainly do that.

P.S. Make sure you secure it properly if placed around the protective rails at the front. You don't want your bag to be accidentally slipping away on a main road during rush hour, especially if you have a laptop or PDA inside :P


Wearing it on your person would keep the center of gravity more at the center of the bike where it should be. I used to have a paper route when I was a kid, and needed two bags of papers over the rear carrier on average days, but when the papers were larger on coupon days, an extra bag was needed on the handlebars for about a dozen papers, and just that 4 or 5 pounds made the bike handle much differently until those papers were delivered at the start of the route. Just make sure your messenger bag is secured to your back and doesn't slide around. If it does, maybe a regular hiking backpack of the proper size would work better than the messenger bag.

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